Traffic jams, supermarket queues, computer crashes or a crowded metro are all stressors that can upset us and make us angry. We become irritable with our colleagues and shout at our loved ones. We become obsessed with trivia and, suddenly, that which should be the lowest of our priorities develops into the most important problem in our life.
This is because our expectations are such that everybody will be on time and everything will always work immediately as we expect it to.
The doctor’s appointment was at 9am so why are we still waiting at 9.30am and consequently being late for work? Our computer unexpectedly crashed again although it was only ‘fixed’ yesterday and now that vital report will be late and we have to apologise to the general manager!
These incidents happen around us all the time and because our lives are so finely tuned, it only takes one small thing to go wrong and the rest of our day can be ruined and our complete agenda disrupted. Then, all we really want to do is to go back to bed and start again.
When something goes wrong, we find ourselves trying to apportion blame onto others which may, or may not, rebound against us. Our emotions start to get the better of us and we lose control; our anger rises to the surface and the first person we come into contact with experiences our rage and disappointment. It is not a pleasant experience for either ourselves or our colleagues.
London’s Daily Telegraph report recently cited a survey which found that 90 per cent of people get upset dealing with call centres while 50 per cent become so angry when their computers crash, and they lose their work, that they physically attack them. We all can get angry and there is nothing wrong with the occasional loss of temper. In fact, it is probably better to show our emotions rather than to keep them bottled-up inside.
So what can you do about it? Learn what it is that can trigger your temper.
It can be useful to keep a diary about the times you felt really angry. Think about the circumstances. What was it that someone said or did to make you upset?
How did you feel and what did you do? How did it make you feel after the event?
If you do this, you may start to see patterns emerging and just by starting to recognise what triggers your anger may be sufficient to help you to do something about it. Maybe ask a trusted friend to help you see yourself as we don’t always see ourselves in the same way as others see us.
Look out for warning signs
You may find that you get a quick adrenaline rush; your heart starts to beat faster; your body becomes tense and you may start clenching your fist or even go red in the face. If you are able to recognise these signs in yourself, it will give you the chance to employ some mental feedback that will modify your feelings.
Practice positive self-talk
If you experience an incident of road rage, then say to yourself: “Maybe that driver is in a hurry but I will probably never see him again. The way he is driving, he is likely to kill himself and I am lucky to be well away from him. He may get to his destination five minutes before me but does it really matter!”
If your heart is racing, you can slow it down by controlling your breathing. Count to three as you inhale, hold the breath in your lungs for three more seconds and count to three again as you exhale. Focus only on the numbers as you do this and refuse to think about whatever it is that is angering you. Do this as many times as is necessary until your heart slows and your head clears.
Controlling long-term anger
Exercise can provide a physical outlet for your anger and there are also ‘anger management’ courses that you can attend if you consistently lose your temper.
Remember, we are human and have emotions. The trick is to recognise them and keep them in check. There are times, of course, when to show emotion is not only acceptable but desirable: for example, you need to show love to your family and your friends.
• Anger can be destructive to self and others.
• Try to identify your personal triggers.
• Physical exercise and deep breathing are antidotes.
— The author is a BBC Guest-Broadcaster and Motivational Speaker. She is CEO of an international Stress Management consultancy and her new book, ‘Show Stress Who’s Boss!’ is available in all good bookshops.